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A Remarkable Future Awaits You!

Graduates, Faculty, Families, and Friends: ALOHA!

It is a great pleasure for me and my wife, Mary, and Elder Clark G. Gilbert and his wife, Christine to join with you students, your marvelous president, John S.K. Kauwe, III, his wife Sister Monica Kauwe, and your talented faculty. We are grateful for President Kauwe’s remarkable service, and we congratulate you graduates on this special day.

I commend you wonderful students and your parents for attaining this singular honor. You are graduating from a special university that maintains the highest standards of integrity and spirituality. Many have sacrificed to allow you to reach your goal and obtain your diploma. To attain a cherished goal is a memorable experience.

I have had the privilege of watching the growth and development of BYU–Hawaii for many years. It has a remarkable history. I first visited this institution more than 63 years ago in the fall of 1959 when I was 19 years old. Hawaii had been admitted as a new state in the United States of America on August 21, 1959. As part of that celebration, Utah State University had been invited to play the University of Hawaii in football. I was a student body officer at Utah State University, and we student officers paid our own way and accompanied the football team to Hawaii.

President David O. McKay, who was then the president and prophet of the Church, learned of our trip and invited us to meet with him at Church headquarters. It was the first time I had met a prophet, and I was deeply impressed with his countenance and spirit. He was warm and gracious to us. President McKay spoke about this institution with great enthusiasm.

This institution had been in existence for only four years, and President McKay had dedicated the first permanent buildings the year before. He asked if we would meet with the students, faculty, and administrators; give them his love and blessing; and encourage them in every possible way.

I can remember to this day the feelings of awe that I experienced when I first saw this beautiful setting. The ocean, the mountains, the temple, the magnificent vistas are as inspiring today as they were then. As part of that trip, we also met with the first governor of Hawaii, William F. Quinn. In this picture I am the one on the far left and Rolfe Kerr is next to me. Elder Kerr and I became General Authorities on the same day in 1996. He served as Commissioner of Education for the Church and is now an emeritus General Authority. We are dear friends.

I had the privilege of addressing a commencement here at BYU–Hawaii 12 years ago and expressed some of the above history and certain feelings then that are even more important today.

I declared at that time that I love the diversity of students that attend this great institution. When I was first called as a new General Authority, I served for five years in Pacific Rim countries. For those of you from the Pacific Rim, I gained a love and appreciation for your part of the world and cherish the diversity you represent.

We live in a moment of particularly strong divisions. However, the millions who have accepted the gospel of Jesus Christ have committed themselves to achieving both righteousness and unity.

President Russell M. Nelson has asked us “to demonstrate greater civility, racial and ethnic harmony and mutual respect. [1] ”This means loving each other and God and accepting everyone as brothers and sisters and truly being a Zion people.

Two years ago in October General Conference, I taught, “…with our all-inclusive doctrine, we can be an oasis of unity and celebrate diversity. Unity and diversity are not opposites…. During the period I served in the San Francisco California Stake presidency, we had Spanish-, Tongan-, Samoan-, Tagalog-, and Mandarin-language-speaking congregations. Our English-speaking wards were composed of people from many racial and cultural backgrounds. There was love, righteousness, and unity.” [2] I have felt here at BYU–Hawaii there is unity that is such an eternally significant principle, especially when there is diversity.

You will draw on what you have been taught here at BYU–Hawaii throughout your life. The education you have received prepares you, not only for significant employment, but also for the continued pursuit of knowledge of all kinds in the years to come.

It is common at commencement exercises to talk about the opportunities that lie ahead. I am optimistic about the future, even in this tumultuous period we have been experiencing. However, I do add a note of caution.

This is one of those unique times in life when the doors to all decisions seem to be open. In a way, this is an illusion because as you progress from this point in your life, you will need to make choices. That means you will walk through some doors but have to close other doors. Please do not be concerned because you can receive guidance and revelation in the decisions and choices you need to make. You will be inspired to make wise and righteous decisions if you strive to live a life based on virtue, faithfulness, holiness, and keeping the commandments of God.

I have always felt, personally and with my own family, that graduations are a time for both humility and gratitude. So, I would encourage you TO BE HUMBLE AND GRATEFUL.

Humility and gratitude have never been more important. In this self-centered age, social media can easily be used for self-promotion. It has never been more important to be both humble and grateful. Those who possess these attributes express appreciation for their blessings as they follow the Savior’s example.

I was deeply impressed that during the unusually difficult pandemic period, including unprecedented trials, that President Russell M. Nelson was inspired to make a world-wide message about gratitude. I love the fact that he expressed gratitude for “the marvelous privilege of receiving revelation.” He made it clear that revelation is “available to everyone of us.” [3]

It is important to be grateful for our heritage and for our parents. I appreciate the fact that Nephi commences his profound doctrinal and historical record now recorded in the Book of Mormon by simply saying, “I, Nephi, having been born of goodly parents,” He also emphasized the “great knowledge of the goodness and the mysteries of God.” [4] A great mentor of mine taught me that not everyone has goodly parents, and the essential lesson from Nephi’s message is that each of us should be determined to be goodly parents. [5]

Two teachings from the past are noteworthy. An old Chinese Proverb reads, “When you drink the water, don’t forget the well from whence it came.” The great German philosopher Goethe put it this way: “What from your father’s heritage is leant, earn it anew to really possess it. [6] ”It is clear that we need to be grateful for goodly parents and take positive action to acquire that which they would hope to bestow upon us.

It is also important to make a habit of counting our blessings. President Nelson taught, “Counting our blessings is far better than recounting our problems.” [7] He recited the scriptural injunction, “In every thing give thanks…” [8] It is important to be humble and grateful!

It is also important to recognize that THE CHOICES YOU MAKE ARE CRUCIAL. Choice is a very loaded word. Most of you are at the stage of life where you have numerous options for some of the most important choices you will ever make:

  • How will you live your life? 
  • For those not married, “Who will you marry?” 
  • Will you be married in the temple? 
  • Will you get additional education or training? Where? 
  • What kind of employment will you seek? 
  • Will you have children? 

Many of these decisions or choices will need to be made soon—most over the next few years. The choices you will make are the key to your future and your happiness. Remember, you are the sum total of every decision you make. Seek the guidance of the Spirit, and you will be blessed!

We live at a time when almost every choice is debated and dissected. Any righteous proposal or principle is almost immediately opposed by many.

The Prophet Lehi near the end of his life taught, “For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things” [9]

He continues later:

“Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself” [10]

Given the war in heaven over the Plan of Salvation, it is not surprising that the religious principles that have been taught in this, the last dispensation, are attacked with malignant ferocity.

But lest we be discouraged, let us remember the outcome of the war in heaven and the outcome that we know will come to fruition with the second coming of Christ.

Because of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, we know that we are accountable for our choices, [11] and we also know to whom we must account. [12] A few years ago, The New York Times columnist, David Brooks, (not of our faith) authored a bestselling book called, The Road to Character. In that book he distinguishes between what he calls “resume virtues” and “eulogy virtues.” He defines resumes virtues as those “you bring to the job market, and they contribute to external success.” He then noted that eulogy virtues are deeper, they get talked about at your funeral…That they are “the ones that exist at the core of your being.” What kind of person you really are.” [13]

We appreciate that you have greatly contributed to your resume virtues by graduating from BYU–Hawaii. I believe the education you have received will greatly assist you as you choose your career path.

In our doctrine the eulogy virtues are based on living a Christlike life, following the covenant path, and preparing to account to the Lord. Let me make it very clear, the choices you make are crucial.

My overall feelings about your generation and particularly you wonderful graduates is highly optimistic. But as I look back over the 60 years since I graduated from university, I recognize that there are many challenges that need to be avoided and some opportunities that need to be pursued. If you are wise and righteous—a remarkable future awaits you!

My first counsel to you is to AVOID BONDAGE AND ADDICTIONS of any kind. Bondage and addictions come in many forms. Let me name a few:

First, addictions that impair agency, contradict moral beliefs, and destroy good health cause bondage. The impact of drugs and alcohol, immorality, pornography, gambling, financial subjugation, and other afflictions imposes on those in bondage and on society a burden of such magnitude that it is almost impossible to quantify.

Second, some addictions or predilections, while not inherently evil, can use up our precious allotment of time which could otherwise be used to accomplish virtuous objectives. These can include excessive use of social media, video and digital games, sports, recreation, and many others. [14]

My third warning is to avoid ideology or political beliefs that are inconsistent with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Substituting the philosophies of men for gospel truth can lead us away from the simplicity of the Savior’s message. When the Apostle Paul visited Athens, he tried to teach of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Of this effort we read in Acts, “For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing.” When the crowd realized the simple religious nature of Paul’s message, which was not new, they rejected it. [15]

This is emblematic of our own day, where gospel truths are often rejected or distorted to make them intellectually more appealing or compatible with current cultural trends and intellectual philosophies. If we are not careful, we can be captured by these trends and place ourselves in intellectual bondage. There are many voices now telling women how to live. [16] They often contradict each other. Of particular concern are philosophies that criticize or diminish respect for women who choose to make the sacrifices necessary to be mothers, teachers, nurturers, or friends to children.

Fourth, forces that violate sincerely held religious principles can result in bondage. One of the most invidious forms is when righteous people who feel accountable to God for their conduct are forced into activities that violate their conscience—for example, health providers forced to choose between assisting with abortions against their consciences or losing their jobs. [17]


I have had the opportunity to live in the Philippines for two years and in New Zealand for three years during my assignment as a General Authority. I have visited the vast majority of the countries in Asia including most of the islands in the Pacific Ocean.

I have had personal experiences with BYU–Hawaii graduates and have observed the enormous contributions they are making, not only to the Church, but also in blessing the communities where they live. In the exceptional devotional last month with President Henry B. Eyring, Elder Gilbert and President Kauwe, they emphasized the need for you to receive personal revelation as you face the challenges and hazards in this life. President Eyring encouraged you to pray for revelation and “go wherever you can build the kingdom of God and where you can touch peoples’ lives.” [18] I loved that President Eyring used the words, “Sacred times and sacred place,” in referring to the environment here in Hawaii. If you can carry that kind of spirit to where you prayerfully choose to go, you can play a role in preparing the world for the second coming of the Savior.

One of the ways you can do this and bless the community where you choose to live is by being a light on the hill, even a beacon light. Our scriptures speak of Jesus Christ as the light and life of the world. [19] His light is the “true light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” [20] Beacon lights have most often been seen as light on the shore that allow ships in dangerous weather conditions to find a safe harbor. In an October 2012 General Conference talk President Boyd K. Packer describes a terrifying personal experience in Samoa where the lower beacon light and those responsible for it had not provided a safe harbor during a ferocious tropical storm. [21]

Many people are experiencing all kinds of storms in their lives. You graduates can be a beacon light to them through your example. It is important that you not be in camouflage.

Being a beacon light will also protect you. During the 33 years I lived and worked in the San Francisco area, young graduates, who had decided to be in camouflage and did not let people know who they were and what they believed, were often in difficult and challenging circumstances.

Those who were beacon lights, not in camouflage and let people know who they were and what they believed had additional protections. So, they were not only a blessing to others, but also blessed themselves. My counsel to you is to be a beacon light and make a positive contribution to the community where you choose to live.


The foundation for every important decision and choice you will make is your testimony of Jesus Christ and the restoration of His gospel through the Prophet Joseph Smith. The Book of Mormon is an essential element of that testimony.

My wife, Mary, and I had the great privilege of accompanying President Russell M. Nelson and his wife, Wendy, to South America in August of 2019. I loved the way President Nelson introduced the Book of Mormon to the president of one country we visited. President Nelson gifted him a leather-bound copy of the Book of Mormon with the country’s president’s name embossed on the cover. When President Nelson handed the book to him, he explained that the Book of Mormon is a thousand-year history of the ancient inhabitants of the Americas. President Nelson noted that because it was a history, it was not like a book where there was a beginning and an end that would be read from cover to cover.

President Nelson informed this leader that the Savior, Jesus Christ, had visited the Americas and it might be preferable to start reading at that point in the Book of Mormon. President Nelson requested that this respected leader read the heading to Chapter 11 of 3rd Nephi. This reads:

The Father testifies of His Beloved Son—Christ appears and proclaims His Atonement—The people feel the wound marks in His hands and feet and side—They cry Hosanna—He sets forth the mode and manner of baptism—The spirit of contention is of the devil—Christ’s doctrine is that men should believe and be baptized and receive the Holy Ghost. About A.D. 34.

The leader of this country was obviously touched when he read the heading aloud.

The Book of Mormon is a powerful witness of Jesus Christ and contains His commandments and teachings. Continuously reading and studying this sublime book will strengthen your desire to live His commandments and provide you with a strong testimony of the living reality of the Son of God.


Those who repent will be particularly blessed by the Atonement. [22] Without the Atonement the eternal principle of Justice would require punishment. [23] Because of the Atonement Mercy can prevail for those who have repented and allow them to return to the presence of God. [24]

I first understood the full significance of the Atonement when my grandfather was dying. I was 26-years old and studying for the California bar exam when my mother called and said if I wanted to see my grandfather before he died, I better come to Utah. My grandfather, who was 86 years old, was extremely ill. He was so pleased to see me and share his testimony.

There were three concerns that he had:

He loved his ten children very much. They were all good people. He wanted them all to be temple worthy. 

  1. His father was one of the young men who had carried members of the Martin Handcart Company across the icy Sweetwater. [25]  His father had died when my grandfather was three years old, and he looked forward to seeing him and hoped his father and other family members would approve of his life.  
  2. Finally, and most importantly, he told me how he looked forward to meeting the Savior. He referred to the Savior as the “Keeper of the Gate,” a reference to 2 Nephi 9:41. He told me that he hoped he had been sufficiently repentant to qualify for the Savior’s mercy. 
  3. All of us have sinned and it is only through the Atonement that we can obtain mercy and live with God. I can remember to this day the great love that grandfather had for the Savior and the appreciation he had for the Atonement.

Brother Hugh Nibley has said, speaking of the Atonement, it is “the one supreme reality of our life upon this earth.” [26]

President Gordon B. Hinckley taught, “When all is said and done, when all of history is examined, when the deepest depths of the human mind have been explored, there is nothing so wonderful, so majestic, so tremendous as this act of grace. . .” [27]

I have counseled you in four areas to help strengthen your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as you move to the next phase of your life.

First: Avoid bondage and addictions.

Second: Be a beacon light and make a positive contribution to the community where you choose to live.

Third: Strengthen your own testimony as a foundation for all the choices you make.

Fourth: Live so the Savior’s Atonement can be efficacious in your life.

Please know how grateful we are for the dedicated effort you have made to achieve the honor of graduating from BYU–Hawaii.

In conclusion, I personally testify with all solemnity of the divinity of the Savior and the reality of the Atonement, and I hope that you will prayerfully consider the significant choices that are before you.

In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

[1] Russell M. Nelson, First Presidency and NAACP Leaders Call for Greater Civility, Racial Harmony, Church Newsroom, May 17, 2022
[2] Quentin L. Cook, Hearts Knits in Righteousness and Unity, Ensign, November 2020
[3] Russell M. Nelson, The Story Behind My Global Prayer of Gratitude
[4] 1 Nephi 1:1
[5] Elder Marion D. Hanks
[6] Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Faust, trans. Bayard Taylor (1912)
[7] Russell M. Nelson, The Story Behind My Global Prayer of Gratitude
[8] 1 Thessalonians 5:18
[9] 2 Nephi 2:11
[10] 2 Nephi 2:27
[11] Doctrine and Covenants 72:3
[12] 2 Nephi 9:41
[13] David Brooks, The Road to Character, Random House, NY (2015)
[14] Quentin L. Cook, Lamentations of Jeremiah: Beware of Bondage, Ensign, November 2013
[15] Acts 17:21
[16] Keli Goff, “Female Ivy League Graduates Have a Duty to Stay in the Workforce,” Guardian, Apr. 21, 2013,
[17] Ibid., 90
[18] Henry B. Eyring, Sacred Time and Sacred Place, Church News, December 2022
[19] 3 Nephi 11:10-11
[20] D&C 93:1-2
[21] Boyd K. Packer, The Atonement, Ensign 2012
[22] The Atonement, Gospel Principles, 75
[23] Alma 41:16-18,22
[24] Alma 42:15
[25] Saints: The Story of the Church of Jesus Christ in the Latter Days, Volume 2, No Unhallowed Hand, 1846-1893 (2020)
[26] Hugh Nibley, World and the Prophets
[27] Gordon B. Hinckley, Teachings of Presidents of the Church